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As mentioned in my last entry, King Alexander died on October 25, 1920, after a freak accident: he was strolling with his dogs in the royal menagerie, when they attacked a monkey. Rushing to save the poor animal, the king was bitten by the monkey and what seemed like a minor injury turned to sepsis. He died a few days later. The following month Prime Minister Venizelos suffered a surprising defeat in a general election.

Greece had at this point been at war for eight continuous years: World War I had come and gone, but yet no sign of an enduring peace was near, as the country was already at war against the Kemalist forces in Asia Minor. Young men had been fighting and dying for years, lands lay fallow for lack of hands to cultivate them, and the country, morally exhausted, was at the brink of economic and political unravelling.

Constantine I, King of the Hellenes

The pro-royalist parties had promised peace and prosperity under the victorious Field Marshal of the Balkan Wars, he who knew of the soldier’s plight because he had fought next to him and shared his ration.

Following a plebiscite in which nearly 99% of votes were cast in favor of the return of the King, Constantine returned as king on December 19, 1920. This caused great dissatisfaction not only to the newly liberated populations in Asia Minor, but also to the British and even more the French, who opposed the return of Constantine.

The new government decided to continue the war. The inherited, ongoing campaign began with initial successes in western Anatolia against the Turks. The Greeks initially met with disorganized opposition.

In March 1921, despite his health problems, Constantine was landed in Anatolia to boost the Army’s morale and command personally the Battle of Kütahya-Eskişehir.

However, an ill-conceived plan to capture Kemal’s new capital of Ankara, located deep in barren Anatolia, where there was no significant Greek population, succeeded only in its initial stages. The overextended and ill-supplied Greek Army was routed and driven from Anatolia back to the coast in August 1922.

Constantine with his family, ca. 1910. Top left: the king holding the toddler Princess Irene. Top right: the future George II. Left: Queen Sophia. Center: Princess Helen. Right: the future Alexander I. Front: the future Paul I. Princess Katherine not yet born.

Following an army revolt by Venizelist officers, considering him as key responsible for the military defeat, King Constantine abdicated the throne again on September 27, 1922 and was succeeded by his eldest son, as King George II of the Hellenes.

Second exile and death

Constantine spent the last four months of his life in exile in Italy and died at 1:30 am on January 11, 1923 at Palermo, Sicily of heart failure. His wife, Sophie of Prussia, was never allowed back to Greece and was later interred beside her husband in the Russian Church in Florence.

After his restoration on the Greek throne, George II organized the repatriation of the remains of members of his family who died in exile. An important religious ceremony that brought together, for six days in November 1936, all members of the royal family still alive. Constantine’s body was buried at the royal burial ground at Tatoi Palace, where he remains.